- by Bill Urbanski
On Sunday, after hiking seven miles through the snowy and icy and sometimes steep trails of Ricketts Glen State Park, I returned home to find a message from my friend Aleya. I knew she was enjoying a much different environment, nearly half a world away; she was in Hawaii. What I didn’t know is that she was about to step foot on top of Mauna Kea, which at 13,796 feet is Hawaii’s highest peak.
|Aleya on the Summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea|
Hawaii stands out for me as it is the only U.S state I have not visited. But I plan to rectify this problem in the not-so-distant future when I too will stand atop Mauna Kea’s summit. In doing so, I will finish off a list I started checking in 2002 – U.S. state highpoints.
I was introduced to “highpointing” by my brother Steve, who had become intrigued with the idea of reaching the summits of all fifty states. He purchased Highpoint Adventures by Charlie and Diane Winger, a highpointing guidebook, and together we spent several years cris-crossing the country in pursuit of higher ground.
Along the way, we met many other highpointers and even discovered that there was an actual club – a national organization if fact – dedicated to this peculiar pursuit.
The club’s origins can be traced to October of 1986 when the late Jakk Longacre, an avid outdoorsman and hiker from Missouri, placed an ad in the bulletin section of Outside Magazine seeking other would-be highpointers. To Jakk’s delight a handful of folks actually did respond, and a year later, the first official club meeting was convened atop Michigan’s highest point, Mount Arvon.
|Official Highpointer Club Logo|
From its humble beginnings – eight persons attended that first meeting in Michigan – the club grew steadily, and today boasts over 3000 members nationwide and even has some international members.
The club is dedicated to the promotion, education, and conservation of all things highpoint. A newsletter is published quarterly, a club mercantile sells guidebooks and a variety of state highpoint related merchandise, and a foundation was recently established to provide financial aid to further promote the goals of the club.
The club also keeps meticulous records and interesting statistics. As of the most recent club newsletter, and according to club records, 398 persons are considered “48 Completers” – that is to say they have successfully reached the summits of the 48 contiguous United States. The current count of “50 Completers” stands at 214.
I became a highpointer and remain a highpointer because I aspire to have my name added to that list of 214, but by no means is such an aspiration a pre-requisite for club membership. Many members have no expectation or even intention of completing 48, let alone 50.
Highpointing is as much about the joys of travel as it is about one day peering out over the Alaskan range from the lofty summit of Denali. This country, the United States of America, is a wondrous and beautiful place. Highpointers by necessity get to see parts of it that the casual traveler would never even consider. And trust me, I can say from experience that getting out there to see and experience the beauty and diversity of this nation is an end in itself.
I encourage everyone to learn more about the club by visiting the club’s website, highpointers.org. Consider joining the club and/or donating to the foundation.
Mark your calendars too. This July from the 14th to the 16th, my good friend Stony Burk and I have the honor of hosting the Highpointer Club’s annual convention, which will be held in Bellefontaine, Ohio. The event will be held on top of Campbell Hill – literally – the state’s highest point.
I’ll be writing more on “The Ohio Konvention” in a future post, but you can register for the convention right now by following the links on the club’s website. Don’t delay. Spots are filling up. Operators are standing by.
Until next time, I offer you the sage advice of Highpointer Club founder and guru, Jakk Longacre – Keep Klimbin’!